54: Sinatra

54: Sinatra

Feb 21, 1997
Stories, tributes, and attempts to understand the Chairman of the Board.
  • Host Ira Glass, with a recording of a 1962 Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., appearance at the Villa Venice, a club outside Chicago. What's fascinating about Sinatra is how he is so many different people at once, and they're all on display in this recording: sentimental crooner, cruel woman-baiter, bully, goofball. The part of the act with Sammy Davis, Jr. is the oddest. Martin and Sinatra are constantly telling him to get off the stage and make joke after joke, whose main point is simply that he's a black man, onstage with two white men. Chicago writer Rennie Sparks makes the case that Sinatra is mesmerizing because he's every man, every possible man, all rolled into one. (7 minutes) Live PerformanceMusicRace

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  • Michael Ventura, who grew up Sicilian in New York, says that as a kid he thought Sinatra was in his family. His book The Death of Frank Sinatra is not really about Sinatra. It's about men like Ventura, who drew part of their style and sense of self from Frank. He reads from the only section in the book where Sinatra actually appears: an account of a Sinatra concert, circa 1994. He says he wanted to write about the older Sinatra because the older Sinatra contains all the ages of Sinatra. All of them come forward when he sings. (12 minutes)LiteratureMusic
    Song:
    • "Angel Eyes", Frank Sinatra on his 80th birthday

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  • Before Sinatra died, Sarah Vowell appeared on this radio program and made a prediction about how network news would cover Sinatra's death ... and she made a simple plea. We hear whether her prediction came true. This essay appears in Sarah's book, Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World. (9 minutes)DeathJournalismMusic

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  • Ira and music contributor John Conners on Sinatra's worst songs. And a brief history of what makes that 1950s Sinatra sound so great, with Will Friedwald, author of the definitive book on Sinatra's music, Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art. (6 minutes) FunnyJournalismMusic

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  • Gay Talese reads from his classic 1966 Esquire article, in which he followed around Sinatra at the height of Sinatra's power. (10 minutes) Health Care/MedicineJournalismMusic

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  • New York writer Camden Joy tells what happened when in a greasy spoon restaurant filled with cabbies and club kids when Frank's film The Manchurian Candidate came on television. The whole place got silent, watched the film, and choked up. (9 minutes)

    (Other Sinatra music throughout the show.)

    Film/Film MakingFood/Drinks/CookingTelevision

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